I Hate Vermonica F.
(And You Should Too!)
by John Adams
Vermonica F., current darling of Madison Elementary, twirls her cold and greasy hair between pudgy, gray fingers.
“Beauty is a construct,” she says. But because she’s a mad scientist’s reanimated laboratory creature, her words sound like “Booyays curnstrurn.”
“Shut up,” I hiss.
Outside the classroom, our fellow Fourth Graders frolic on the playground. But recess is over for Vermonica F. and me.
“Durnlurn errshurnurg shyshtyl nurns durnfurn swurvurv, Jaaay,” she says. Don’t let ever-shifting societal norms define your self-worth, Jane.
“I’ll shift you, Vermonica F.!” I yank her dead hands from that gross hair to the back of her plastic chair. I pull a sparkly-purple jump rope from my Strawberry Shortcake backpack and circle it around her wrists, tying the ends with fancy bows and a securing tug.
“Thursurp irzur murfurfurfur curpmerders shicklick urnrurlstirck burtsturts.” This rope is a metaphor for corporate media’s shackling, unrealistic beauty standards.
“It’s a metaphor for you,” I snap back. “The freak who shambled into my school, corrupted my friends, and stole my spotlight.” I grab Mom’s hand mirror from my backpack and thrust it in her face. “Look at yourself, Vermonica, F.! You’re hideous! A… a monster! Created with… with dead-body parts, a metal slab, and… and lightning rods!”
I’m stuttering, flustered I can’t provoke her like she constantly provokes me. I inhale and run calming fingers through my hair… Soft hair... Warm hair... Living hair. I’ve got to focus. I don’t have time for meltdowns. Her Dozen Adoring Gays will come looking for her soon.
I know their habits well.
After all, they used to be my Dozen Adoring Gays.
The first day of kindergarten, Austin—or was it Ashton?—sauntered up to me and sang, “You’re divine. Wanna come dish with me and my eleven saucy friends?” That started my reign as Queen of Madison Elementary’s Dozen Adoring Gays. Sure, names and faces changed as boys shuffled in and out of school districts, popularity cliques, and narrowly defined identity labels. But for four fabulous years, I’d held court over this devoted entourage.
Our carefully cultivated hierarchy was destroyed last month when a death-reeking newcomer lurched into the cafeteria. “Students,” Principal Higginstone announced, interrupting Goulash Monday. “This is Vermonica F. She joins us from the castle on Shelley Hill. Please welcome her.” He ceremoniously handed Vermonica F. a bright-pink packet of enrollment papers, which she crumpled in her clunky grasp.
Naturally, my Dozen Adoring Gays were disgusted by Vermonica F. At first.
“She shambles!” they chortled.
“Her skin is stitched-together corpse flesh!” they chided.
“Rusty bolts poke from her neck!” they chattered.
But—as Vermonica F. constantly reminds me—beauty standards shift. Particularly for ten-year-old gay boys. Soon, my Dozen Adoring Gays grew fascinated by Vermonica F.’s shambles. Enthralled by her skin. And ultimately won over by her neck-bolts.
By Steak Tartare Tuesday, Spencer was offhandedly complimenting her stapled-on fingernails.
By Wasabi Wednesday, Brendon (Brandon? Braedon?) was gushing over the part in her hair. (“Thanustar,” she replied. Thanks, it’s a scar.)
By Bring-Your-Own-Chow Thursday, all twelve of my boys were cheering as she swallowed the class guinea pig in one belch-inducing gulp.
By Pork Fritter Friday, I was usurped.
They flocked to her. They flocked from me. My Caspers and Caspiens, my Cullens and Culvers, my Hunters and Huntingtons and Honeysuckles, all tumbled into Vermonica F.’s thrall. My queen-bee status, sweet and pungent since kindergarten, dissolved. I went from a sushi-catered lunch table with the most chic Fourth Graders in Cincinnati to tuna salad on a weather-scratched bench behind the gym with Sammy Cloudpopple—also gay, but neither adoring nor adored, his voice squeaking UFO conspiracies, his corduroys ink-stained (and usually pee-stained).
Today, all that changes.
I’ve executed my plan perfectly.
During recess, I lured the Dozen Adoring Gays away with claims of a dead fox behind the school. (10-year-old gay boys are still 10-year-old boys.)
I bribed Sammy Cloudpopple with UFO magazines to distract the playground monitor with a fake pee-mergency. (Turns out, it wasn’t fake.)
I tempted Vermonica F. back into the classroom with promises of scrumptious new hamster babies—just for her.
And now, here we are. Vermonica F. tied to a chair. Me standing over her. Where I belong.
“Wurgurdur wunmakhuh lykemgun.” Whatever you’re doing won’t make them like you again.
“Frinshrin urncrurs yursturturn lurburb.” Friendships aren’t creatures you stitch together in a laboratory.
“Shut up, Vermonica F.!”
I slam my hand into my backpack and pull out Mom’s date-night Maybelline. It goes straight onto Vermonica F.’s ugly mug. If she’s this school’s new standard of “beauty,” it’s time for a makeover.
I apply lipstick to decaying lips.
Rouge to maggoty cheeks.
Nail polish to rusty neck-bolts until they are shiny, silver baubles.
Once done, I untie her, admiring my work. Not bad. She almost looks human. The gruesomeness that rocketed her popularity is barely detectable. Let’s see how adoring her dozen gays are now.
“Maydup duchaymay mateyoomanny.” Makeup doesn’t change my innate humanity. “Rooroos, Jaaay.” Or yours, Jane.
I’m spared further moral platitudes by the patter of 24 Italian-leather shoes. My dreamt-about moment arrives. I smile at the Dozen Adoring Gays and gesture to my newly bedazzled nemesis. “Your Queen, gentlemen.”
Her meticulous but mercurial minions shriek, horrified at first… but then… delighted?
“Vermonica F.! Yay!”
“You’re so pretty!”
“Let’s play pretend wedding!”
Vermonica F. shoots me a smug, dead smile. She’s won them. Again.
But before she can declare victory, shrill, piercing sirens wail. We rush to the window. Outside, Sammy Cloudpopple, his corduroys wetter than ever, points upward.
A massive, gray ship, cold and alien, slowly descends.
Pod doors open, and an oozing slug-like creature with a Care Bears backpack slithers out. “Glug-glug-glug-slurp,” the alien croaks. “Slurp-slurp-slurp-gurgle.” Self-sufficiency bolsters self-confidence. Self-confidence bolsters self-worth.
Principal Higginstone trots to the spaceship, waving bright-pink enrollment papers.
The Dozen Adoring Gays—no longer mine or Vermonica F.’s—flock to greet their new queen, armed with sushi and compliments.
“Oooooo fuuuuuuhhhhhh,” says Vermonica F.
For once, we agree.
John Adams (he/him/his) writes about teenage detectives, pelican-people, robotic butlers, cursed cowboys, and bear nuns. His growing publication list includes Australian Writers’ Centre, Bowery Gothic, The Drabble, Siren’s Call, Trembling With Fear, and Weird Christmas (forthcoming: Dream of Shadows, Paper Butterfly, peculiar, SERIAL Magazine, Triangle Writers Magazine, The Weird and Whatnot). His plays have been produced by Alphabet Soup (Whim Productions) and the 6x10 Play Festival (Barn Players) and selected for readings at the William Inge Theater Festival and the Midwest Dramatists Conference. He performs across the U.S. with That’s No Movie, a multi-genre improv team. Web: https://johnamusesnoone.com/. Twitter: @JohnAmusesNoOne.